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She spoke in measured tones with a confident calm. She was poised, full of grace, and as beautiful as ever. Her warm and endearing smile, from lips and eyes that were once dead, but had since come alive with a happy twinkle, said it all. She was in a good place, and enjoying every moment of her recovery. She was imbued with a zest and an enthusiasm for life, and her new mission – that of saving others from the dreadful path that she once trod. We’re talking about Mary John, she of an awful drug and alcohol addiction that took her to the gates of death and hell.

She marked 17 years of sobriety last week, and we wanted to celebrate that remarkable milestone with her. As did all of Antigua and Barbuda, the men and women of goodwill, who are touched by the feelings of each other’s infirmities. We wanted to rejoice with dear Mrs Marcella John, Mary’s loving mother – a mother in Israel, and a woman of unshakeable faith. It was Mrs John who never gave up on Mary; it was Mrs John who prayed without ceasing that her daughter would be healed of her dreadful affliction. It was she who confidently told Mary that on their next visit to the therapeutic addiction treatment centre, CROSSROADS, she would be returning as a recovering addict. Mary made it back then. Thank God! And it’s been seventeen years since. Ah, there is no greater power in this world than that of a mother’s love.

Mary says that it was her mother’s belief in her that saved her from an early grave. She spoke of the many times when she ‘fell off the wagon.’ She spoke, in hushed tones, with tears in her eyes, of those times when, in the depths of despair, she attempted to take her own life. But God was gracious and merciful, and she did not stay down. She always managed to pick herself up. It was a Herculean struggle between life and death, and in the end, Mary says that she chose life. “Oh death, where is thy victory; Oh grave, where is thy sting!”  

Mary began her celebration of life with an appearance on ourVOICE OF THE PEOPLE (VOP) by saying: “On Wednesday October 21st, 2020, I celebrated 17 years in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, and I penned a post on my Facebook page, and said that in order to begin the process of healing, mentally and emotionally and spiritually, I had to forgive myself . . . And I said that I still believe that I am alive today because of my mother’s prayers. I said that my struggles and my pain is what I share with, especially the youth, who have not yet started using drugs and alcohol, and my success is the hope that I share with those that are still on the road that I travelled – the sick and suffering.” Sigh!

From all reports, one could hear a pin drop in living rooms and work places, not only here in Antigua and Barbuda, but all over the world. Everyone was transfixed by her gripping tale, her passionate plea for more to be done by way of drug counselling and treatment for those who are afflicted, and of course, the love and support of family and friends. She cited the kindly Lesley Margetson who stood by her throughout her ordeal, her darkest moments, always praying and encouraging. Our NEWSCO WhatsApp board, as well as our telephone lines, never had as many contributors – all supportive, and all expressing their love and respect for Mary.

Another dear friend of Mary’s, the gentle Lucette James, had this to say: “Mary, do you have any idea how many people told me that they were listening in tears? I am not surprised since I was one of those people. You spoke passionately and eloquently with a photographic recall of dates and events. Well done! Proud of you!” Yes, Lucette, was overwrought with emotion, as was this writer, and hundreds of callers and WhatsAppers. It was a poignant moment, because many of us have friends or family members who are struggling with the demons of addiction (Mary cited pornography, gambling, sex, food, drugs and alcohol as insidious addictions that can destroy). Many of us have someone close who lost the fight against an addiction.  (Mary tearfully mentioned her friend, Marie Merchant, RIP). And of course, many of us know that “There, but for the grace of God, go we.”

Another dear lady had this to say: “Good night, Mary John, I have heard about you, and I heard you on the radio with Paul and Franz yesterday, and I tell you, you are a real inspiration to me. To be reaching the young souls with your testimony – teaching them; to keep them, to divert them, to let them know the reality and importance of staying and thinking wisely. I am thanking God for your courage that you could just open up your mouth and go on national radio, knowing that a lot of people all over the world would be listening to you; but you know what, somebody, somewhere, that listened to you, you are a blessing to them. You have blessed me. I am an older lady. I have never done a lot of these things, but you see your mom, she’s a tower of strength. Thank God for moms. I don’t know if you have any children, but girl, you are a mother to many children, because I know that because of your testimony, a lot of young people, a lot of people out there who listened to you, they have made a complete turn; an about turn, and you can declare, ‘God is my refuge and strength, a present help in time of trouble.’ I was truly blessed to listen to you. Don’t let anybody get you down; be courageous, God is your strength and your shield, a strong tower, and I know that had it not been for God, where would we be. . . .”.

A longtime friend and former colleague at Barclays Bank, Calvin Southwell, called with high praise for Mary and warm expressions of love. He spoke for all of us. As did Duane Harney, now residing in New York, who sent a message saying that Mary’s appearance on VOP was our most inspiring show ever. He sent kudos to Mary. So too did dear Val Hodge.

When this writer invited Mary to share her joy on the 17th anniversary of her sobriety with the world, she indicated that if one life was saved from the pit of hell as a result of her appearance, it would have been worth it. We believe that her testimony will not return void; a life was changed in a very real way. We salute our dearest Mary and wish her God’s choicest blessings. We are confident that she will stay in the fight with those who are struggling, those who are being led astray, those who are being taken advantage of. She is doing God’s work.

Mary, we rejoice with you!

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